You probably already know about Lauren and all that she is going through. I don't have the words for her, not at all, but I want to again express how deeply sad I am for her. Tracy set up a GoFundMe for her, if you want to contribute financially.
And of course, the Charleston church shootings have been weighing on me heavily. While there has never been an easy time to be a person of color in America, the past year has been especially horrifying. I'm a professional historian, remember, and while my work focuses on queer people, many queer people are people of color. I also study the South specifically. I could go on about this at length and would be happy to, but it is well beyond time to take the Confederate flag down off any government sites where it remains.
I'm guessing I won't be telling anyone here anything new, but listen: there is no way to argue that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. It was. Go read the Articles of Secession if you don't believe me--all of the states said that they were seceding because they wanted to keep their slaves and the winds weren't blowing that way up north. It's not a grey area. If you need more evidence, this is what the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said about it:
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.If that isn't a punch in the gut, I don't know what is.
A few weeks ago at a horse show, M was riding a client's horse, and that client came to help out and brought one of her students with her. That student was wearing a very loud Confederate flag shirt. I'm a white person, but I found myself feeling extremely uncomfortable around her. The mentality that goes into the choice to wear a Confederate flag is not one that is often friendly to queers, and I'm a pretty visible one. She didn't say anything rude to me (it would take some serious cojones to say something shitty to me about my gender presentation/sexuality/anything really in front of my particular coach, though, so no points awarded to her for that). But even if all Confederate flag wielders were openly supportive of queer people, I would still feel seriously uncomfortable around them because of the statement it makes to people of color, with whom I do my best to stand in solidarity.
The horse world is a pretty white place. We can all think of, and some of us are, equestrians of color. But being able to think of someone who isn't white participating in something doesn't mean that it's a space that is always comfortable for POC to be in. And wearing a Confederate flag to a horse show is chilling, in that context. She felt comfortable enough with the idea that she was in a white-dominated space (as many spaces are) that she could do that.
"But horse people are so nice and I've never seen a Confederate flag at a horse show ever."
Listen, horse people can be super great. M is one of the best humans I've ever met. I love a great many of you. But just because someone is nice to me at a show--like this girl, who seemed genuinely friendly with M and the client and so on--doesn't mean that they don't harbor feelings about marginalized groups that I find abhorrent. You know? "Nice" is lovely but it doesn't get us all off the hook for self-reflection at the very least.
And now, after Friday's Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality in all 50 states, there's another flag to talk about. My feelings on this one are a little bit more complicated, to be honest. Marriage isn't an institution I'm especially interested in participating in. I also don't love that the entire conversation around queer identities seems to be hung on marriage, when LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing, legally, in most states and according to the federal government. Gay and lesbian people have somewhat more protections in this area than do trans people, whose lives are on the line every day. We've got a situation on our hands where 40% of homeless youth are LGBT and something like 30% of LGBT youth are homeless. I find those numbers shocking. And so marriage, to me, has always felt like a less important issue. If marriage is an institution that exists, then queer folks should have access to it. And beyond that I've never gotten all that worked up about it.
But Friday's decision was great nonetheless, and while I watched Facebook explode into rainbows (because I have a carefully-curated list of friends and no time for homophobic nonsense), I found myself getting excited about it. I can be a curmudgeon for the rest of the year and keep my focus on the issues that resonate with me more than marriage does, but I appreciated taking the day to enjoy finally having a constitutional protection, which is not something my crew is used to having.
This is what I said on Facebook about it:
When I'm in a riding lesson, on my young horse, and things are going well, my coach and I will talk about whether this is a good moment to "get greedy" and ask for more, or whether it's best to leave things where they are and be happy. With the horse, that's a bit complex, because you want to move things along without frying the little darling's mind or losing confidence.And then I did this to my profile pic:
With the past couple of weeks and couple of centuries being what they've been around here, this is ABSOLUTELY the time to get greedy. Health care, removal of racist symbols from government sites, and marriage equality are BASIC. Now is the moment to push and get some real shit done, not to give the horse a pat on the neck and be done. This is the warmup, not the jump off.
And then a friend gave me some rainbow flags so I did this to the saddle pads I'd planned to use on Saturday before I decided to scratch in lieu of buying water wings for Mo:
|They'll still be beautiful at the next show.|
Instead of writing this entire thing, I suppose I could have just posted this, from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Facebook page: